Boy Bishop

Definition

Theater

  • In medieval Europe, a boy chosen to oversee festival merrymakingat schools, colleges, cathedral choirs, etc. In England this usuallyoccurred on St Nicholas's day (December 6) or during the New YearCelebrations (when it was sometimes called the Feast of Boys). InFrance it usually occurred as part of the Feast of Fools.The boys selected their Boy Bishop, a dominus festi, to leadprocessions and preside at feasts and burlesque Church services, usuallyin full episcopal dress. Latin plays were performed. The 'Bishop' held office for up to three weeks and other boys served as his prebendaries. If hedied in office he was buried in his vestments. The custom may derive from the story of the boy Jesus sitting in the temple instructing the doctors. The custom was abolished by Henry VIII in 1541, revived in 1552, and finally abolished by Elizabeth I. Some scholars link the Feast of Boys to the beginningsof English secular drama.
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